Venezuelan tools of protest? Pots, pans, and smartphone apps.(Read article summary)
The popular Latin American protest tactic of banging pots and pans took on a new form in post-election Venezuela. Some opposition members protested Maduro's victory by downloading a noisy app.
Nearly a month after Nicol√°s Maduro‚Äôs controversial inauguration as Venezuelan president, the¬†noise of banging pots and pans still brings the deserted streets to life here.¬†
A nightly occurrence for the first two weeks after April‚Äôs hotly contested presidential election results, the sounds of anti-Maduro sentiment are now the street-level soundtrack whenever a government-mandated broadcast, or ‚Äúcadena‚ÄĚ (chain), takes over the airwaves. Opposition supporters pick up their pots, pans, spoons, and in some cases smart phones, and hang out windows and on balconies to create a cacophonous "cacerolazo," as the noisy protest is called here.
‚ÄúThey didn‚Äôt get the result they wanted, so they‚Äôre making a lot of noise,‚ÄĚ says Vladimir Hernandez, a chavista and supporter of Mr. Maduro from eastern Caracas. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve heard it before, and we‚Äôll hear it again,‚ÄĚ Mr. Hernandez says of the clanging pots and pans.
The cacerolazo has taken such a hold in Venezuela that a number of smart phone apps have been launched to replicate the sound of banging pots and pans. The free Cacerolazo Android app in particular, developed in Argentina, saw over 50,000 downloads in April as news spread worldwide of the protests in Caracas.
‚ÄúIt could be that we‚Äôre lazy,‚ÄĚ says Marianna Hernandez, whose Samsung Galaxy phone does the work for her in her Caracas neighborhood of Colinas de Santa Monica. ‚ÄúBut after twenty minutes your arms get tired,‚ÄĚ she says.
‚ÄúWe simply plug my phone into the stereo and open the window,‚ÄĚ Ms. Hernandez says. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a much greater sound than you can make physically."
She says her friends poke fun at her, but she doesn't mind. "It‚Äôs about showing solidarity.‚ÄĚ
The regular toc-toc-toc sound of anti-Maduro attitude is countered by fireworks, which explode above the Venezuelan capital‚Äôs socialist strongholds. The fireworks are distributed by the city's police force, which encourages demonstrations of support for the country‚Äôs ‚Äúfirst chavista president,‚ÄĚ as Maduro describes himself.
Everything but the kitchen sink
The cacerolazo is not endemic to Venezuela: Many point to 1970s Chile as the originator. Citizens of Santiago showed their discontent with the economic policies of Salvador Allende‚Äôs government through the cacerolazos. The nature of the protest allowed them to express their discontent from the safety of their homes.
The demonstration has since been adopted across Latin America, becoming a common soundtrack throughout the continent, particularly in Buenos Aires, where the app used by many Venezuelans this month was first designed by the COLPIX Argentina studio. Outside of the region it has gained traction as well, most notably last year in Quebec, when students took to the streets to protest a government bill to make mass protest illegal.¬†
‚ÄėI‚Äôll keep going‚Äô
Both Maduro and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles acted to discourage street-level protests, fearing violence. Maduro closed the streets each night in the weeks following his contested victory, while Mr. Capriles called off plans for a large opposition march.
Capriles turned instead to calling for nightly cacerolazos, instructing his supporters to show their discontent through this nonviolent ‚Äď though not particularly peaceful ‚Äď protest.
‚ÄúIt won‚Äôt change anything,‚ÄĚ says Ms. Hernandez, who voted for Capriles in the country‚Äôs past two elections. ‚ÄúStreet protests need to be organized, that way you can give a number to those who are against this government.
‚ÄúThe cacerolazo may sound like a lot of people, but it lacks visual impact.‚ÄĚ
Maduro won the election by 1.8 percent of the vote, and his victory has been acknowledged by regional leaders including the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia. However, Capriles has cited close to 3,200 counts of electoral fraud, including illegal election-day campaigning and police intimidation in opposition-strong polling stations.¬†
He has petitioned the government for a full recount, and a partial recount is currently underway.
¬†‚ÄúPeople will eventually get bored of [the cacerolazo], but I‚Äôll keep going as long as everyone else does," Ms. Hernandez says.